The saying “it’s a game of inches” is a cliché but it rang true on Saturday night.
David Amador’s fourth-and-four run came up just short of the line to gain inside the red zone with a minute left and North Shore trailing by a touchdown. The Mustangs season fell just as short as Amador’s run.
The fourth state title showdown between these two teams in five seasons was billed as a heavyweight showdown. That held true, especially in the second half. Duncanville scored the only points of the second half on a Caden Durham touchdown run while holding North Shore to just 11 yards in that frame. For the second half, Duncanville out-gained North Shore 75-56.
That’s a predictable outcome for anyone who has watched these teams this season. Each employs a great defense and North Shore finished the season playing its best wide receiver at quarterback due to injury. It’s what makes this season unlike any other coach Jon Kay has had at the helm of the Mustangs.
“We’ve been through adversity in our program,” Kay said. “So when we had a guy go down, David is probably one of the top receivers in the state; it wasn’t even a question (for him to step in at quarterback), it was selfless behavior. I can coach my tail off every single day but when your top athletes do that kind of stuff, they’re selfless in their work ethic, there is no better coaching than that.”
Amador showed as much heart as any player all season, adjusting to a new role and many times taking control of the offense to propel North Shore to a state title game and inches short of a win. For him, it’s easier to accomplish the things he has this season with the North Shore community behind him.
“I dedicate it all to my brothers and my coaching staff,” Amador said. “We fought hard, especially me, I’ve been through a lot on this team, dealing with injuries and trying to fight through that. I tried my best and gave it my all.”
Amador’s final line of his high school career: 20 carries for 87 yards and two touchdowns; 7-of-10 passing for 76 yards and a touchdown. Not too shabby for a guy who is typically neither a quarterback nor a running back.
Durham was the offensive MVP of the game, finishing with 104 yards and three scores on 25 carries. The junior running back did just enough to give his team the win, including the go-ahead nine-yard touchdown run with 3:41 left in the third quarter. In a defensive slugfest, Duncanville coach Reginald Samples – who won his first state title after amassing what has already been a Hall-of-Fame career – credited coach Kay and North Shore’s adjustments.
“When you play a team like North Shore, I bet you I watched 40 hours of film,” Samples said. “When you watch how they manipulate teams and use their talent to their best ability, you don’t have anything but respect for (coach Kay). I mean, he’s done it to me three times. That’s why you really have to be on your toes, and he did it again tonight. We (got up) 14 to nothing, he made adjustments right off the bat and tied the game.”
Samples adjusted right back. North Shore scored all of its 21 points in the second quarter before the Panthers held the Mustangs to no points in the second half. While Duncanville captures its first title in the Samples era and second in school history, North Shore will go back to the drawing board.
Quarterback Kaleb Bailey will be back from injury. This was a relatively young team that now has an experience under its belt it isn’t used to seeing: A state title game loss. Coach Kay thinks that will help propel North Shore back to this game in 2023. Whether or not Duncanville will await for round five, well… who knows.
“We’ve been here before and if I’m being honest, we probably won a few games this year we shouldn’t have,” Kay said. “It taught our kids a lesson that we’re entitled to zero, we’re entitled to nothing and I think our kids know that in life. If this is a reminder to them, so be it, but we’re just trying to get our kids back in a good frame of mind (for next season).”